Former president Moshe Katsav arrived at the Supreme Court Thursday morning as a panel of justices was set to announce the verdict in his final appeal. The former president greeted family members already inside the courtroom.
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The verdict will be announced almost a year after the former head of state was convicted of two
counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force and
obstruction of justice.
Katsav's wife was noticeably absent from the courtroom.
The panel of justices – Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel
and Salim Joubran – will announce their decision at 9 a.m., following three
months of deliberations after hearing Katsav’s appeal in August.
the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Katsav to seven years in prison, Supreme Court Justice Yoram
Danziger agreed in May to a request by Katsav’s defense lawyers to postpone his
punishment until after his appeal process.
Unless the Supreme Court
overturns the lower court’s verdict and sentence on Thursday, Katsav will begin
that prison term. However, should the court uphold the guilty verdict and
sentence, his lawyers are expected to request a further postponement of several
weeks, and it is not expected that the former president would be taken to prison
from the court.
Following his appeal in August, Katsav’s defense team
expressed optimism about the verdict, but criminal law experts have been more
In an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday, retired judge
Hayuta Kochan said that while the Supreme Court might make small changes to the
lower court’s verdict, it was unlikely that the justices would overturn
“This is a routine and factual case, the likes of which the Supreme
Court justices have heard dozens of times before,” Kochan said. “They may make
small changes, but it’s hard to imagine that we will see a radical
Criminal law expert Yoram Shachar, a professor of law at the
Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that
while it was not appropriate to speculate or make predictions about the ruling,
it was worth noting that the court accepted as many as a third of appeals
against lower-court rulings.
“As an appellate court, Israel’s Supreme
Court is very active,” Shachar said.
Katsav’s defense team did not
present any new evidence in his appeal, although this is usual when the Supreme
Court is asked to reexamine the evidence presented to a lower
However, over the three days of the appeal hearings, the former
president’s lawyers represented a line of defense that asked the three justices
to consider a scenario in which Katsav had not raped his former employee at the
Tourism Ministry, identified only as “Alef,” but instead had a “romance” with
“Katsav’s lawyers raised as a hypothesis the possibility that he had
a sexual relationship [with Alef],” Shachar said.
“That really surprised
everyone. The court really hated it. They said, ‘If that is the
truth then let the defendant say it.’” Katsav, however, has consistently denied
any sexual relationship with Alef.
Shachar said another problem for
Katsav had been his attitude during the legal proceedings.
insolent in court, he refused to show any humility,” said Shachar, who added
that people surrounding the former president had also contributed to creating a
“halo of insolence” around him.
While Katsav himself did not give fresh
testimony before the Supreme Court – although this is usually done in appeals –
his defense attorney Avigdor Feldman described Alef’s versions as a “puzzle” –
the pieces of which had been arranged by the prosecution and accepted by the
district court to reveal a picture of a rape.
Using a detailed timeline
of events and telephone records before and after the alleged rapes, the defense
argued that Alef and Katsav had a relationship that “went beyond the
professional,” but was nevertheless consensual.
However, even if the
court did accept the defense’s arguments that Katsav and Alef had a romance of
the sort suggested by the defense, while less severe than rape, that
relationship would be considered “forbidden consensual sex” under Israeli law,
because Katsav, then the tourism minister, was Alef’s employer.
Ben-David, professor of criminology at Ariel University Center of Samaria and an
expert in sex offender rehabilitation, noted it was very common for those
convicted of sex crimes to deny charges against them.
offenders are offered treatment programs in prison.
However, if the
Supreme Court does rule on Thursday to uphold the lower court’s verdict and
Katsav is sent to prison, he would have to admit his guilt and express remorse
before being eligible for any sex offenders’ treatment program, Ben-David
In answer to speculations that the former president could be a
suicide risk in the event that his conviction was upheld and he was imprisoned,
Ben- David said this was not likely.
“Katsav is so sure he is not
guilty,” said Ben-David. “That would strengthen him in prison as part of his
struggle for justice.”The Post
has learned that the Prisons Service is
not dealing with the matter of Katsav’s potential imprisonment until after the
Supreme Court has announced its decision on Thursday morning.
and depending on what that verdict is, will the Prisons Service prepare to
receive the former president like any other prisoner, according to the criteria
set during that preparation process.